Film Review: Eternals

Spoilers ahead!

The Eternals.

Well, this is quite the indictment of how I felt about Marvel’s Eternals: I saw it on Dec. 29, 2021, and I forgot to review it. I even had a period there back in January where I caught up on my movie reviews and still forgot about having seen it.

So, if you couldn’t tell, I’ll go ahead and say this from the get-go: This is the most disappointing Marvel film since perhaps Iron Man 2 in 2010. I didn’t care for that sequel much at all. In fact, that and this film are basically the only two Marvel films I’ve been “meh” on. Which is frustrating, because I was quite excited by Eternals and adding that mythos to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

It wasn’t a bad film, but it was a mess of a film that was, at a little over 2.5-hours long, perhaps 30 minutes too long. Typically, watching a MCU film, I’m bummed when it’s over because it’s such a blast, like the latest Spider-Man film, whereas here, Eternals dragged.

The gist of the film is that there are Celestials, the oldest race in the universe, who act as lower-case “g” gods, to paraphrase the MCU Wiki page, and one of those Celestials, Arishem, created Eternals, superpowered beings who protect Earth against Deviants.

In the film, the Eternals are Ajak (played by Salma Hayek), Sersi (played by Gemma Chan), Ikaris (played by Richard Madden), Kingo (played by Kumail Nanjiani), Sprite (played by Lia McHugh), Phastos (played by Brian Henry), Makkari (played by Lauren Ridloff), Druig (played by Barry Koeghan), Gilgamesh (played by Don Lee) and Thena (played by Angelina Jolie).

Kingo’s assistant here was hilarious, so that’s another positive of the film.

Once the Deviants were slayed in the 1500s, the Eternals go off to do their own thing on Earth until Arishem ostensibly calls them back home.

The Eternals are brought back together on Earth in the present day of the film because they are concerned the Deviants are emerging again, and in addition to that, one of their own, Ajak, is found dead at her home. She was the former leader of the group, which now goes on to be Sersi.

However, the Eternals soon realize they’ve been unwitting pawns in Arishem (and the other Celestials’) universal blueprint: Harvesting Earth’s human population’s power to create more Celestials via a process called the Emergence. Deviants were first used to cull the populations of other planets to allow native populations to grow, thus allowing for enough energy to create another Celestial, but when the Deviants began going after the native population, too, that’s when the Eternals were created to beat them back.

In other words, both the Eternals and the Deviants, who have been seeming foes from the beginning of time, are pawns in this celestial germination.

From there, we get division and more death among the Eternals. First, it turns out that Ikaris is like a bad Superman and doesn’t want to go against Arishem’s plan, with Sprite joining him because she loves him, and then Kingo decides to be neutral, which was quite the cowardice move. In a situation like this, when you’re a superhero, you gotta pick sides.

At the end, true to his mythology, Ikaris flies into the sun out of guilt, and the emergence of the Celestial Tiamut is stopped, but Arishem arrives to take Sersi, Phastos and Kingo, saying he will spare humanity if the Eternals’ experience on Earth shows them worthy of being spared.

We learn that Thanos has a brother in a mid-credit scene, another Eternal named Eros, who is presumably going to help the Eternals, and then in the post-credits scene, we get a tease for Ebony Blade, which is awesome.

One of the first notable negative items about the film is that the Sersi/Ikaris love angle both feels like it comes out of nowhere, and worse, Chan and Madden just don’t have any romantic chemistry at all. If anything, Ikaris/Madden and Thena/Jolie had far more chemistry.

Additionally, it’s just hard to make sense of the Eternals logically. They act as if they are not supposed to influence human events, but they definitely do! Even in small ways, that’s still influencing. To be fair, one of the Eternals, Druig, deals with this issue. He can’t stand not being able to even further help humans instead of standing by and that creates another rift among them.

I also thought it would’ve been more interesting and compelling for the Deviants and the Eternals to come together since they both were pawns. Instead, the Eternals snuffed ’em out.

And the hard thing with something like Ikaris going bad is that then you have him able to withstand the onslaught of three Eternals at once. Are the Eternals that weak that they can’t take down one Eternal together? Or is he really that strong?

There wasn’t a lot of interesting action set pieces in this one or even anything I fondly remember as being a cool sequence or a cool shot. The more I’m writing and thinking through the movie, the more I’m talking myself into disliking it even more.

I take it back: Makkari as the speedster of the Eternals was quite fun to watch and probably stole the show, as far as that goes. I enjoyed her sequences. The Amazon battle was also fun because of the unique location.

Again, conceptually, I like a lot of what this adds to the MCU. Now, the superheroes and Eternals have celestial beings to deal with. That there are beings who have been around since the beginning of human beings is intriguing. But of course, there’s also the flip side to that where it’s like, every movie has to have some world-ending potentiality instead of something more narrow and intimate, such as Logan.

Overall, I don’t think you’re not missing a whole lot if you don’t go out of your way to see this one. For completeness’s sake, though, if you’re a MCU fiend, I think you have to check it out to make sure you know what’s going on.

Okay, this was a cool shot, too.

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